Scared yet? If not, take a gander at this creepy clown, a Chicago philosophy adjunct whose main claim to fame is his philosophy gossip site. His latest prank is a scurrilous smear of Rightly Considered. He foolishly confuses one of the commenters, Jacques, with one of the contributors.
The American Philosophical Association has issued a statement that condemns bullying and harrassment. Who could disagree? But the following paragraph needs a little more work:
Abusive speech directed at philosophers is not limited to responses by the public to published op-eds. A look at some of the anonymous philosophy blogs also reveals a host of examples of abusive speech by philosophers directed against other philosophers. Disagreement is fine and is not the issue. But bullying and ad hominem harassment of philosophers by other philosophers undermines civil disagreement and discourse and has no place in our community. [. . .]
Two points. Why the restriction to anonymous philosophy blogs? There is a decidedly non-anonymous gossip site run by a philosophy adjunct that has featured numerous unprovoked attacks on fellow philosophers. Here is a prime example.
Now let's say you have been attacked out of the blue by this fellow, and you respond in kind with mockery and contumely, to give him a taste of his own medicine. Should it not be pointed out that the same types of actions can be justified as defense that cannot be justified as attack?
Civility is a good old conservative virtue. But it has limits. Civility is for the civil, not for those whose hypocritical calls for civility serve to mask their aggression.
Wondering what had become of Colin McGinn, I poked around and came across this parody by him of somebody he variously refers to as Brigand Lighter, Brendan Lightweight, Barry Litebeer, and Professor Litesmear. Is he referring to some actual person? The post is dated 1 April 2015 which suggests that Professor McGinn might just be fooling around.
He's baaack, bearing 'gifts.' Professor Christian Munthe has the story:
Remember The September Statement from earlier this year, signed by 648 academic philosophers in North America and elsewhere against Chicago philosopher and law professor Brian Leiter's unacceptable treatment of his UBC colleague Carrie Ichikawa-Jenkins, ending in Leiter's statement of resignation from the institutional ranking operation he had founded and coordinated up till then, the Philosophical Gourmet Report? If not, a recapture of some of the essential of this sad and disgraceful story is here (start at the bottom to get the adequate chronology). This detailed chronological account is also rewarding.
One would have thought that after this, Brian Leiter would prefer to lay dead and lick his wounds for a while, waiting for the memory of the scandal and his own disgrace to settle, and maybe find new pathways to having himself feel good about himself besides bullying and threatening (apparently mostly female) academic colleagues for one of the other, more or less fathomable, reason found by him to justify such behaviour. Maybe do something meriting a minimal portion of admiration and respect from academic colleagues, perhaps?
Not so at all.
As revealed on Christmas eve by Jonathan Ichikawa-Jenkins, Carrie's husband, Leiter has recently had a Canadian lawyer send a letter to them both, threatening with a defamation lawsuit unless they publicly post a "proposed statement" of apology to Leiter, with the specifically nasty ingredient of a specific threat that such a suit would imply " “a full airing of the issues and the cause or causes of [Carrie’s] medical condition;”. Moreover, the letter asks the Ichikawa-Jenkins to apologise not only for the personal declaration of professional ethos that made no mention of Brian Leiter whatsoever but that for some reason – to me still incomprehensible as long as a deeply suppressed guilty conscience or outright pathology is not pondered – to to be an attack on his person, but also for the actions of other people, such as this post at the Feminist Philosophers blog, and The September Statement itself – implying obviously that all the signatories to that statement would be in the crosshairs of professor Leiter. The full letter of the lawyer setting out these threats is here. The (expected) response from the Ichikawa-Jenkins' lawyer is here, stating the simple and obvious claim that all that's been publicly communicated on this matter – such as making public bullying emails of Leiter – is protected by normal statutes of freedom of speech.
He finally went too far. For years he got away with vicious out-of-the-blue personal attacks on conservatives and white males, but when he turned on females, such as Prof. Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins, the Left turned on one of its own. (Be sure and click on the link to get the full flavor of Leiter's thuggishness.)
See my Brian Leiter category for more on this sorry specimen. I wouldn't be mentioning this status-obsessed careerist and academic gossip monger at all if it weren't for his attack on me which you can read about, if you care to, in the category just mentioned.
Had enough yet? If not, there is more below.
UPDATE (10/11): You've read the September Statement. Here is the October Statement. What's needed is a November Statement the gist of which would be: forget the despicable Leiter and his antics, and all this rating and ranking nonsense, and the hyperprofessionalization and politicization of this noble and beautiful calling, Philosophy, and return, if you can, to meditation on the questions and problems that ought to have led you to philosophy in the first place -- assuming that your goal is wisdom and insight and not the life of a status-obsessed academic functionary like Leiter.
UPDATE (10/11):Here is a surprisingly detailed and regularly updated archive of Brian Leiter's ongoing collapse with links galore.
A commenter here penetrates to the essence of Leiter (emphasis added):
Her [Jenkins'] original post, which essentially celebrated her happy ascension to being a professor in a treasured field, was instantly stalked and trolled and attacked by a prominent professional in her field who put her on notice that nothing she wrote or published would happen without his eye falling on it, that whatever she wrote could be construed as legally actionable, that he would be watching her to make sure that she steered clear of the sin of ever impinging on his gaping wound of an ego. In other words: she’s minding her own business and an important, touchy, asshole turns out to be stalking her and turning her private and professional life into a legal cause of action.
In an instant she went from being a person celebrating and engaging with her field and her colleagues into, apparently, the enemy of a person with zero sense of proportionality and restraint–a person so narcissistic that they go out of their way [he goes out of his way] to threaten legal action against a perfect stranger for a perfectly innocuous post that doesn’t reference Leiter at all. [. . .]
That's exactly right. No reasonable and decent person could object to Jenkins' statement of her principles and ideals. And even if it is too earnest for the jaded, only a scumbag like Leiter would call her a "sanctimonious asshole" for writing it. And only an egomaniac like the Ladderman could take it as directed at him.
You see, the problem with Leiter is not that he responds uncivilly to people who attack him; the problem is that he initiates vicious attacks on, and threatens, people who haven't mentioned him at all simply for stating something with which he disagrees.
Leiter is a strange study in self-destruction: he craves status and recognition and yet behaves in a way that any fool can see will lead to his loss of reputation. Chivalry may be moribund, but it is not entirely dead. To attack a woman who has made it in a male-dominated field as an "asshole" for simply announcing her values and ideals is not only morally offensive but profoundly foolish for someone for whom status and standing are everything.
And how 'philosophical' is such behavior? How can one call a philosopher one who places a premium on status and standing? Leiter fancies himself a philosopher, the real thing, while I, according to him, merely "purport" to be a philosopher. But he does not enjoy an appointment in a philosophy department! So by his own entirely superficial criterion of what makes one a philosopher he himself is not a philosopher. His criterion, it goes without saying, is absurd on the face of it, excluding as it does Socrates and Spinoza and so many others as philosophers, including his master Nietzsche, another profile in self-destruction.
The man is without substance, devoid of wisdom and decency, a two-bit self-promoter and academic functionary, in no way a Mensch, in some ways a Macher, and in most ways a blight upon academic philosophy. It is good that he has decided to self-destruct. May he complete the project and emerge with a metanoia, a change of heart and mind.
We who are now witnessing his self-induced unravelling may wish to ask ourselves: is this Schadenfreude, or righteous satisfaction at his comeuppance?
As to Professor Leiter himself, I wish to say as little as possible (we have had our run-ins, to put it mildly). But I think everyone should acknowledge that Brian Leiter is not solely responsible for Brian Leiter: he has been pandered to, encouraged, and enabled by large segments of the philosophy profession, especially in the United States. The reasons for this have been essentially corrupt. It is time for people to wake up to their own complicity. He has no more power than the power people have given him. I look forward to a post-Leiter age in philosophy.
Keith, one of Leiter's early victims, goes on to report his satisfaction at Leiter's humiliation.
Here's hoping that Leiter's self-defenestration does indeed usher in "a post-Leiter age in philosophy."
The following portion of an interview by Richard Carrier of Susan Haack puts one in mind of Brian Leiter whose main disservice to academic philosophy has been his contribution to its hyperprofessionalization.
S.H.: I had begun to express concern about the condition of professional philosophy well before 2001; and I’m sorry to say that our profession seems to me in even worse shape now than it did then. It has become terribly hermetic and self-absorbed; bogged down in pretentious and pseudo-technical jargon; in the thrall of those dreadful “rankings”; and splintered into narrow specialisms and—even worse—cliques identified, not by a specialty, but by a shared view on a specialized issue. A friend of mine put it in a nutshell when she described professional philosophy as “in a nose-dive.”
The reasons for the over-specialization are no doubt very complicated. But one relevant factor, I’m sure, is departmental rankings by area; and another is the ever-increasing pressure to publish, now extending even to graduate students. And behind this, there’s that ever-growing class of professional university administrators who have long ago put their academic work on permanent hold and, unable to judge a person’s work themselves, can only rely on surrogate measures like rankings, “productivity,” grant money brought in, citations, and such. Inevitably, many professors and would-be professors soon internalize the same distorted values; and many soon realize that a relatively easy way to publish a lot, fast, is to associate yourself with some clique, to join a citation cartel, to split your work into minimally publishable units, and of course to repeat yourself.
I have already reported on Brian Leiter's initial unprovoked attack on me. After that 2004 attack, which I chose to ignore, he got in a jab or two which I also ignored, until just the other day when he let loose again with an unprovoked attack. Then I realized that for my own peace of mind, and to teach him a lesson, and to defend all the others, including graduate students, the untenured, and those who are tenured but do not relish the prospect of being slimed by him, that I must mount a defense.
I conclude my self-defense today.
It must be borne in mind that I never launched an unprovoked attack upon him. I am defending myself and others against his attacks. I am giving him a taste of his own medicine, or rather, poison, so that maybe some day he will see that there is no percentage in his brand of scumbaggery. Of course, one cannot appeal morally to a morally obtuse leftist for whom the end justifies the means and bourgeois morality is buncombe, a person who demonizes his opponents and whose modus operandi is the ad hominem.
It would do no good to write to him and say, "Sir, you have attacked me personally and viciously, out of the blue, even though you don't know me at all, when I have done nothing to you, and only because I hold ideas with which you disagree. Doesn't that seem morally wrong to you? Don't you believe in free speech?"
That won't work with someone bereft of moral sense. One has to make a prudential appeal to his self-interest along the lines of: keep this up, buddy, and you will diminish your own status, which is apparently the main thing that concerns you. As a status-obsessed careerist, Leiter is enslaved to the opinions of others. So he must take care that he remains well thought of, at least by those who still think well of him.
This post will respond to Leiter's latest outburst. I will try to keep this brief.
What got Leiter's goat was the following sentence from my masthead:
Selected for The Times of London's 100 Best Blogs List (15 February 2009)
You see, for Leiter I am neither "competent" nor "successful" and so do not deserve any such minor honor as the one bestowed by The Times, even if I were in 100th place. A glance at my PhilPapers page, which lists 50 or so publications in Analysis, Nous, The Monist, etc. should put the question of competence to rest. If I am incompetent, then all those referees and editors must be mighty incompetent to have given me their positive evaluations. Am I successful? Well, I got a tenure-track job right out of graduate school, was awarded tenure, and was invited to teach at Case Western Reserve University for two years as a full-time Visiting Associate Professor of Philosophy. I have been awarded four National Endowment for the Humanities grants. And so on. Is that success or failure? After my stint at Case Western Reserve I decided to live the life of an independent philosopher.
It is at this point, presumably, that I went from success to failure in the eyes of the illustrious Leiter. You see, someone as spiritually vacant and given to psychological projection as Leiter cannot comprehend how anyone could not value the trappings and bagatelles, the privileges and perquisites, that he values. If one is not a professor of philosophy, he thinks, one is not a real philosopher. I wonder what Leiter would say about Spinoza and plenty of others, not to mention his hero, Nietzsche. The point is obvious. I needn't go on. Leiter is a shallow and vain man, a grasping and ambitious man, and is widely regarded with disdain in philosophical and legal circles.
At the end of his post, he relates something he got from one of his sycophants:
. . . after teaching at the University of Dayton from 1978-1991, he took a leave of absence because his wife, who teaches art education, got a job at Arizona State University. Unsurprisingly, he could not get another job, and so he simply left academia to follow his wife. The only amusing irony here is that our raving right-wing, racist lunatic appears to be basically a "house husband"!
Here is the truth. I taught at the University of Dayton from 1978 to 1989. Then I took a leave from U. D. and, having been invited, I taught as a Visiting Associate Professor Philosophy at Case Western Reserve University. Now for a long time I had dreamed of becoming an independent philosopher who could devote all his time to his philosophical and spiritual pursuits. Of course, I cannot expect a superficial climber like the Ladderman, who cannot imagine anything higher than being an academic functionary, to understand any of this.
My wife and I both had tenured positions in Ohio, in Cleveland and Dayton, respectively, the distance between the two being roughly 220 miles. So we had a long-distance marriage going for quite a number of years. The solution came when she was offered a great position at ASU. She had me make the decision, and I decided that we should move to the beautiful state of Arizona. Being a very frugal man who had saved and invested a lot of money, I decided to retire from teaching at age 41 and realize my dream. It was one of the best decisions I ever made and my life has been wonderful ever since.
Am I a racist? Of course not. The allegations of Leiter and his sycophant are pure slander. The playing of the race card is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It is a matter of public record that I owned and lived in a house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, from 1986-1991, a city that is approximately 40% black. Interested in what someone really thinks? Look to their behavior, especially their monetary behavior.
Leiter says I called him an idiot and philosophically incompetent. Another lie on his part. My objection is a moral one: he launches vicious personal attacks on people because he disagrees wth their ideas. He does not respect the principle of toleration.
I do not consider him stupid, nor do I say that he is philosophically incompetent. I assume he is competent. My main objection to him is the he is a leftist thug who smears people because of their views. He has a right to his leftism, but not to his thuggishness.
A secondary objection, one which I would never have made had he not attacked me, is that Leiter is a status-obsessed careerist devoid of spiritual depth. Just as there is no wisdom and decency on the Left, there is no wisdom and decency in Brian Leiter. If there is, it is deeply buried. He should let it shine forth if it exists.
Addendum (9 June)
Frank Wilson at Books, Inq. writes (emphasis added):
Considering that Leiter's characteristic mode of operation is personal attack, it is rather amusing that he doesn't like such when it is directed at himself. In his latest on Bill Vallicella, he has this to say: "an obscure (and right-wing) British journalist with no knowledge of philosophy was asked to recommend 100 blogs in different areas, two of which he identified as philosophy blogs."
Well, this blog is also one of the hundred chosen, and the British journalist referred to is Bryan Appleyard, who is neither obscure nor particularly right-wing. Bryan in fact, didn't choose the 100 blogs himself. I sent Bryan an email when this blog was chosen to thank him and he wrote back that he had nothing to with the final pick. He just submitted a long list of various blogs to his editors. They looked at blogs on the list and made their choices.
So Leiter doesn't know what he's talking about. (I should have added that, from what I have observed, Bryan is quite philosophically fluent.)
For the first time since the end of World War II, classic anti-Semitic tropes—“the Jews” control the world and are to blame for everything that goes wrong, including the financial crisis; The Jews killed Christian children in order to use the blood to bake Matzo; the Holocaust never happened—are becoming acceptable and legitimate subjects for academic and political discussion. To understand why these absurd and reprehensible views, once reserved for the racist fringes of academia and politics, are now moving closer to the mainstream, consider the attitudes of two men, one an academic, the other a politician, toward those who express or endorse such bigotry. The academic is Professor Brian Leiter. The politician is Ron Paul.
You’ve probably never heard of Leiter. He’s a relatively obscure professor of jurisprudence, who is trying to elevate his profile by publishing a gossipy blog about law school professors. He is a colleague of John Mearsheimer, a prominent and world famous professor at the University of Chicago.
Brian Leiter would do well to consider and live by the following prudential analog of Ockham's Razor:
Do not multiply enemies beyond necessity.
Why not? Well, it is just foolish, especially for a vain and status-obsessed careerist who craves name and fame, to attack people who, it can be expected, will expose his petty and absurd behavior.
One of the puzzles of the Leiterian psychology is that he does things that are quite plainly not in his self-interest. When he attacks those who are above him on what he perceives to be the Great Ladder of Success, he reveals his envy. When he attacks those he perceives to be below him, he reveals his pusillanimity.
In Aristotelian terms, what Leiter lacks is magnanimity (megalopsychia, great-souledness). The sphere of magnanimity is the sphere of honor and dishonor. Magnanimity is the mean between the extremes of vanity and pusillanimity. The magnanimous person knows himself and is capable of honest self-evaluation. This self-knowledge keeps him from both vanity and pusillanimity.
The vain man pegs himself too high: lacking self-knowledge he fancies that he deserves honors and emoluments, perquisites and privileges far above what he actually deserves. So we could say that vanity involves an excess of self-love together with a lack of self-knowledge. Leiter is clearly vain in this Aristotelian sense. His vanity is at the root of his envy of those who are his betters, such as Thomas Nagel whose superiority is evident and unsurpassable by the likes of Leiter no matter how hard he climbs.
The pusillanimous person pegs himself too low: lacking self-knowledge, he fails to aim at goods he is worthy of. He occupies himself with matters that ought to be beneath him such as slandering and defaming opponents.
So it appears that Leiter, lacking self-knowledge and with it magnanimity, oscillates between vanity and pusillanimity. When his vanity is in the ascendancy, he attacks those above him on the Ladder. When his pusillanimity reigns over his psyche, he attacks those below him. This is yet another proof of the appositeness of the 'Ladder Man' label. It is not just that he obsessively likes to rank things. He himself is obsessed with his rank, and thus obsessed by those above him and below him in the Rangordnung. He cannot accept with gratitude the rung upon which he is perched, however precariously. He burns for more in the way of name and fame while denigrating those he considers unsuccessful.
Leiter is a fascinating study, not qua token, but qua type. The Ladder Man type is what elicits scientific interest. There is no science of the particular qua particular, said Aristotle. Individuum ineffabile est.
For Aristotle on magnanimity and pusillanimity, see Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book IV.
I figure that in a week or so we should have the Leiter affair behind us. But there remain a number of lessons and insights to be learned from the Ladderman's bad behavior.
An Attack on Simon Critchley
Let me give you an example (supplied by a reader) of the sort of abuse in which Leiter engages. The trusted reader, an untenured philosophy professor, sent me this: "Leiter regularly attacks Simon Critchley with vitriol, as for example here (probably he was disappointed and enraged that he wasn't asked to moderate the NYT blog himself)."
Leiter describes Critchley as "a complete hack." I haven't read Critchley. But I just now found a popular piece of his in The Guardian, on Heidegger. Since I have published a half dozen articles in refereed philosophy journals on Heidegger, I know something about the German philosopher. What Critchley says here about Heidegger is accurate. 'Hack' denotes someone whose work is substandard and who works for purely mercenary reasons. So Critchley is not a hack, complete or incomplete.
Leiter's Modus Operandi
The attack on Critchley illustrates Leiter's M.O. First comes a highly disparaging label whose application to the target is dubious in the extreme. The target is a "noxious mediocrity" or a "complete hack." That's bad enough, but what makes it worse is that no evidence is provided of the applicability of the epithet. Note that I am not saying that no one is a hack, and I admit the possibility of a few complete hacks abroad in the land, though the qualifier 'complete' seriously limits the extension of the noun thus qualified. The point is that if you are going label someone in a disparaging way, then you had better provide some evidence. If I have tio explain why, then you are morally obtuse.
Finally, if the target responds in kind to the slur, Leiter acts as if an offense has been perpetrated against him.
Call it the Leiter Three-Step: trash your opponent; provide no evidence of your allegations; act offended when the opponent defends himself.
Why Leiter Feels Justified in Abusing Conservatives
There is a clue in the oft-made observation that conservatives think leftists are wrong, while leftists think conservatives are evil. Once Leiter decides that you are evil, then you are fair game: nothing you say need be objectively evaluated in terms of truth value or logical coherence. It suffices to point out that you are, say, "a crazed right-winger."
One could call it refutation by epithet. You are a sexist, a xenophobe, an Islamophobe, a homophobe, a racist, a bigot, not to mention intolerant.
Pointing out to a leftist that he is intolerant does no good. For he feels his intolerance to justified by the fact that you are evil. Surely the principle of toleration does not enjoin that we tolerate evil-doers!
An e-mail from a few years back with no name attached:
[Brian] Leiter fancies himself a gatekeeper to the realm of academic philosophy. You gotta love the professional gossip that seeps through his blog - Ned Block got an offer from Harvard but turned it down, here's the latest coming out of the Eastern APA, or noting, yesterday, that Ted Honderich consulted him during the publication of the new Oxford Companion to Philosophy. And look at the way Leiter prides himself on knowing the goings on at each school and each professor. . . what a status-obsessed elitist (I believe those are your words). No wonder this guy publishes the PGR. Others of us enjoy doing philosophy, most of the time, but here is a man who loves *being* a philosopher, all of the time.
Permit me a quibble. I would not describe a man like Brian Leiter who is a status-obsessed elitist and a careerist philosophy professor as someone who IS a philosopher. Socrates and Spinoza ARE philosophers. They and many others truly lived the philosophical life as opposed to merely doing philosophy for their enjoyment, or using it as a means to advance themselves socially and economically. For them it was a noble enterprise, a vocation in the root sense of the word (L. vocare) and not a career. Spinoza, for example, in 1673 declined an offer of a post at the prestigious University of Heidelberg in order to preserve his independence. He lived for philosophy, not from it, supporting himself by grinding optical lenses.
So I suggest a three-fold distinction. There are those who do philosophy as a sort of hobby; there are the mere professors of it who fill their belly from it and try to make a career out of it; and there are those who truly ARE philosophers. Among the latter, there are of course some professors.
While I'm on this topic, I may as well mention two other distinctions that are often confused. One is the distinction between professionals and amateurs, the other between people who make money from an activity and those who do not. These distinctions 'cut perpendicular' to one another, hence do not coincide. Spinoza was a professional philosopher even though he made no money from it. One can be a professional philosopher without being a paid professor of it, just as one can be an incompetent amateur and still be paid to teach by a college.
2,037 pageviews today according to Typepad. My per diem average is in the 1.2K-1.3 K range.
Leiter has made a foolish mistake in attacking me. He craves status and standing. But I don't care about status and in any case it is low: I am a relatively obscure blogger and an academically unaffiliated philosopher. I have no power and limited influence. By attacking me and bringing readers to my website, he raises my status and influence while lowering his own. For what people will learn here about Leiter can only damage his reputation, especially among the young philosophers who are coming up and are not yet fully apprised of his antics.
UPDATE (6/4): 929 pageviews at 4 AM. And the day is yet young. Way to go, Brian! You are working your way down the ladder of success.
UPDATE (6/4, 5 PM.) The day ended with a total of 2404 pageviews. The Ladderman is a leader (Leiter) to my site.
My recent anti-Leiter posts may give new readers the impression that I am doing the same sort of thing he does, namely, hurling abuse and name-calling. Not so. He attacked me out of the blue in November of 2004, and I ignored him. But given his recent attack, it is time to supply the context of my recent responses to him, and to explain that I am engaged in a legitimate defense against an unprovoked series of attacks. My motive is to set the record straight, but also to defend the graduate students, the untenured, and others who fear to respond to Leiter's attacks on them.
It all started when I posted the following on the first version of MavPhil. The entry is dated 4 November 2004 and I reproduce it verbatim:
Theocracy and the Left
Nobody wants a theocracy in the U.S. except the Islamo-fascists, and they want it everywhere. The fear among some leftists that the re-election of G.W. Bush is moving us towards theocracy shows just how delusional their thinking is. The problem with leftists is not so much stupidity as their ideological fixations. The latter prevent their minds from functioning properly. They see threats that aren't there and fail to see the ones that are. They ignore the very real theocratic threat of militant Islam, all the while fabricating a Christian theocratic threat.
Hostility to religion, especially institutionalized religion, is a defining characteristic of the Left. We've known that since 1789. What is surprising, and truly bizarre, is the Left's going soft on militant Islam, the most virulent strain of religious bigotry ever to appear. It threatens all of their values. But their obsession with dissent is so great, dissent at all costs and against everything established, that they simply must denounce Bush and Co. as potential theocrats, all the while cozying up to militant Islam. Their hatred for Bush is so great that they will sacrifice their defining values just to oppose him. In their perversity, they think the enemy of their enemy is -- still their enemy.
The above post got Leiter's goat even though there is no reference to him and no link to his website. But being the sort of vain and self-centered fellow he is, he took it personally as directed against him in particular. So taking it, he replied with a personal attack on me in Paranoid Fantasies of the Right:
In keeping with my general policy of not linking to noxious mediocrities--who, experience has shown, crave any attention--I am just going to quote a posting that is interesting not because of who said it (though he purports to be a philosopher), but because of what it reveals about the right-wing mindset (it resonates with rhetoric one hears from Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and others of that slimy ilk). The author was reacting (badly, it appears) to my reference to Bush & co. as fascist theocrats. Our right-winger comments: [Leiter goes on to quote me.]
Note for starters the man's huge ego: he thinks I am responding to his post. Not so. Second, what I have to say is just "rhetoric" of the sort spewed by Sullivan, Hitchens "and others of that slimy ilk." The suggestion, of course, is that I am of the same ilk. Third, I "purport" to be a philosopher. The suggestion is that I represent myself as being a philosopher when I am not a real philosopher like Leiter. Leiter is a philosopher (in his own mind), while I merely purport to be one. We will have to consider the criteria for being a real philosopher in a separate post.
Fourth, I am one of those who "crave any attention." How could Leiter have known this? (We have never met.) I am an introvert, an INTP in the Myers-Briggs classification and such types do not "crave any attention." To the contrary. Note also how Leiter appears to be engaged in psychological projection: he most assuredly craves attention, he recognizes at some pre-conscious level that this is unacceptable and an indicator of immaturity, and so to prevent this realization on his part he projects the unacceptable attribute into others. Projection is a defense mechanism the purpose of which is to reduce anxiety. So in Leiter's view I am the one who craves attention, which is why my name cannot be mentioned or my site linked to. Having projected his craving into me, he alleviates the anxiety he subconsciously feels at being an attention whore. What's more, Leiter wouldn't want to give me what I "crave" and he wouldn't want any one to be influenced by ideas that are on Leiter's index idearum prohibitarum.
There is apparently a link between psychological projection and bullying, a link we may follow up in a separate post.
Fifth, I am a "noxious mediocrity." In one sense of the term, 'mediocre' is not a pejorative; it just means of average ability. But then we are both mediocrities in philosophy if we are held to a truly rigorous standard. Why then is one of us "noxious"? Because he is not the other? And then there is the question as to how Leiter could know that I am a mediocrity in philosophy. Has he studied any of my papers published in such journals as Analysis, Nous, Philosophy, History of Philosophy Quarterly, The Monist, Dialectica, and numerous others? Has Leiter published in any of these journals? Some of my papers are listed on my PhilPapers page.
To sum up. Leiter is a leftist ideologue first, and a philosopher second, if at all. Philosophy for him is but a means for the advancement of himself and his ideology. This explains the personal nature of his attack on me cited above. A good leftist, he seeks to destroy those who disagree with his ideas. It is all about power and it is all about winning. It is right out of Alinsky and the CP. Don't forget, PC is from the CP. You shout down your opponent; you ridicule him; but if the opponent replies in kind, then you protest that he is a hypocrite who doesn't live up to the standards he professes. Alinsky: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. Another rule of lefties: Always invoke the double standard: Treat your opponents like dirt but then protest the "sick viciousness" of a reply in kind.
I'll end with part of an e-mail from a young philosophy professor:
I hope that you are wearing Leiter's attack on you as a true badge of honor. The fact that Leiter deems you worthy of an attack post means that his grotesque, opportunistic, tyrannical mind is squirming at the fact that you are not assimilating into the proper politically correct hierarchy of contemporary academia. But this why I, and so many others, love your blog. Keep up the great work!
Brian Leiter is known for his academic gossip site, Leiter Reports. He is also known for his careerism, thuggishness, and political correctness. Some call him Ladder Man because of his obsession with rankings and status. (One of the meanings of the German Leiter is ladder; another is leader as in Gauleiter.) Others call him Brianus Climacus because he is a climber and careerist. For others he is just the Academic Thug. Recently, however, some on the Left have been turning on him. This from a reader:
I don’t know if you’ve been watching all this develop, but some people are more and more willing to come out publically against Leiter (though I don’t mean to suggest that I approve of the position they are siding with in order to do so). See the second paragraph in particular for background (with links):
At the moment it does indeed seem that Leiter is being devoured by the world he created, the hyper-professionalized world of academic philosophy. The conception of philosophy as a “profession” (and all the b.s. that entails) combined with the PC tendencies of academia at present have given birth to an ugly sort of monster, and Leiter has inadvertently stumbled into its labyrinth. But he does conceive himself as a sort of Theseus in this context, and he has promised a long reply to his critics. In this one specific instance I think he is in the right against many of those attacking him—their attacks coming from an even more radical version of PC than his own. But still he’s in the wrong overall (and your description of him is spot on), and this is what he gets.
I had asked: Is pushback against Leiter a case of the Left eating their own? When do these feminists and their fellow travellers actually do philosophy? Methinks too much of their time is occupied with issues of professional status and standing, 'diversity,' careerism, and the like. That is what I can't stand in Leiter as well, that corpulent apparatchik of political correctness.
This is worth reproducing; I came to essentially the same conclusion (emphasis added):
The viciousness with which this book [Mind and Cosmos] was received is, quite frankly, astonishing. I can understand why scientists don't like it; they're wary of philosophers trespassing on their terrain. But philosophers? What is philosophy except (1) the careful analysis of alternatives (i.e., logical possibilities), (2) the questioning of dogma, and (3) the patient distinguishing between what is known and what is not known (or known not to be) in a given area of human inquiry? Nagel's book is smack dab in the Socratic tradition. Socrates himself would admire it. That Nagel, a distinguished philosopher who has made important contributions to many branches of the discipline, is vilified by his fellow philosophers (I use the term loosely for what are little more than academic thugs) shows how thoroughly politicized philosophy has become. I find it difficult to read any philosophy after, say, 1980, when political correctness, scientism, and dogmatic atheism took hold in academia. Philosophy has become a handmaiden to political progressivism, science, and atheism. Nagel's "mistake" is to think that philosophy is an autonomous discipline. I fully expect that, 100 years from now, philosophers will look back on this era as the era of hacks, charlatans, and thugs. Philosophy is too important to be given over to such creeps.
One such creepy thug is this corpulent apparatchik of political correctness:
This post dated 17 November 2004 is from Ladderman and ought to be preserved. So I reproduce it here.
Maverick Philosopher posted a short sharp reply to the now common leftist claim that America is becoming a "theocracy" under President Bush. Excerpt:
"Hostility to religion, especially institutionalized religion, is a defining characteristic of the Left. We've known that since 1789. What is surprising, and truly bizarre, is the Left's going soft on militant Islam, the most virulent strain of religious bigotry ever to appear. It threatens all of their values. But their obsession with dissent is so great, dissent at all costs and against everything established, that they simply must denounce Bush and Co. as potential theocrats, all the while cozying up to militant Islam."
That must have had an awful lot of truth in it as it even got a bite from Ladderman, who was paranoid (or egotistical) enough to think that the post referred to him, even though he was not mentioned in it.
Ladderman's only substantial point in reply, however, is that some Christians WANT to have their values (such as opposition to abortion) enshrined in legislation. Wow! What news! You can certainly rely on Ladderman for the scoops! Many Christians have wanted that from the year dot but it does NOT mean that they are getting it or are going to get it. Wanting isn't getting and Bush's policy as given in the Presidential debates is thoroughly centrist: He wants to make alternatives to abortion more attractive but he certainly has no policy of getting abortion banned.
And in fact American law generally has undoubtedly been becoming more secular with every passing year. The Christian fundamentalists have LOST the battle on things like abortion, public prayer, public display of religious symbols and prohibition of homosexuality. But Ladderman (Leiter) is only a Law professor so I guess he hasn't noticed.
If he went to Saudi Arabia or Iran he would find out what a real theocracy is like. Ladderman's bile has totally cut him off from reality.
David Gordon reviews Thomas Nagel's Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament: Essays 2002–2008. The following is a particularly interesting portion of the review in which Gordon comments on a certain status-obsessed careerist's puerile fulminations against a real philosopher:
Perhaps a more realistic, and to my mind a more depressing objective obit would read as follows:
Philosophy professor x showed great academic promise from early in his career. He published a revised version of his dissertation to great acclaim. He followed this work by well over one hundred articles and scores of books. His third book was for three weeks on the NYT bestsellers list. Within the discipline, professor x is perhaps best known for his famous counter-example to the such-and-such argument. He was, in short, one of the rare examples of a successful professional philosopher.
On the other hand, professor x was known to have been an insufferably arrogant boor and a notorious seducer of his graduate students. His work was motivated almost exclusively by a desire to improve his reputation and advance his professional career; he was driven by appetite and thumos, rarely if ever by nous; he really had no genuine personal connection to what the great ancient philosophers would have recognized as "philosophy."
In sum, professor x was a successful professional-philosopher, but he was no philosopher.
(Have I just composed the obit of the typical follower of the Leiter Report?)
Some bloggers warn their readers that 'blogging will be light.' I should warn my readers that 'blogging will be dry and technical for the foreseeable future' as I work my way through the recent free will literature.
I've never met a philosophical problem that didn't turn my crank. How could anyone be bored in a world so riddled with philosophical difficulties? There are no boring topics; there are only bored people.
I have been following your blog for some time, from the move to PowerBlogs to the recent move to TypePad. I have two questions I'd like to ask:
First, are you going to post your opinions on the election? I have particularly enjoyed reading the reactions of several conservatives . . . . As such, I would love to hear your own thoughts on the issues.
Second, why have you never taken Brian Leiter to task? His utter distaste for anything conservative; his mockery of anyone who votes Republican as "war mongers," religious fanatics, etc.; his politicizing of philosophy, and his obsession for status, fame, and power; all these appear to run directly counter to everything you stand for and believe in. [. . .]
This e-mail gives me an opportunity to comment on the direction of this blog.
1. I am by nature apolitical. The political sphere impresses me as a realm of mendacity and illusion and a distraction from what truly matters, namely, one's self-actualization. At the moment this impression is very much in the ascendancy. This explains why I haven't posted anything about the election. Thus I expect this incarnation of Maverick Philosopher to contain less material on currect political events. But one cannot ignore this stuff since one's ability to live in freedom is put in jeopardy by government. So I will continue to keep an eye on developments and will speak out when sufficiently moved to do so.
2. I will however disallow comments on all posts except those of a technical philosophical nature. Discussions of politics and religion, and indeed of anything that cannot be precisely and rigorously articulated, are often a waste of time, and almost always a waste of time when there is insufficient common ground between the interlocutors.
3. My reader asks why I have never taken Brian Leiter to task. My reader and I seem to share the view that Leiter is a contemptible fellow, a status-obsessed careerist, and a living example of how corrupt academic philosophy can become. To pay any attention to him or his ravings would be a waste of time. I've done my bit to counter the ideas of the Left, and it is ideas, not persons, that count in the end.